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All Blacks in Transvaal

The All Blacks travelled from Windhoek to the Transvaal for three matches: firstly, against Eastern Transvaal in Springs; secondly, against Transvaal in Johannesburg; thirdly, against Western Transvaal in Potchefstroom.

Starting with a bit of sightseeing and relaxation the team went down a mineshaft in Johannesburg to view how gold is mined underground. The author could not resist the temptation to boast about the strength of one the All Black players. Here is what Gabriel David wrote:

There were conflicting reports about the visit to the Western Areas Gold Mine. Some of the players described it as dull but manager Ron Burk said it was fascinating to go down 6.000 feet, travel two miles by underground train and watch the workmen at the actual rock face.

The Taranaki lock, Alan Smith, was not at all impressed with the promises and challenge of the mine manager who showed the All Blacks a 100 lb nugget worth about $ 31,000 and stated that anyone who could lift it with one hand could take it away.

Smith, whose powerful hands have become something of a legend, casually lifted the nugget in his right hand. The mine manager hastily assured him that he was only joking -about taking the gold rock away. 

In another book I found this picture of of an All Black holding a gold bar above his head . The book state it's Ian McRae. This might in fact be Alan Smith. Either way an All Black forward (Alan Smith or Ian McRae) lifted a 100 pound gold bar.

He also describes how impressed the team were with the waitress at the hotel who brought morning tea with the tray balancing on her head. It was obviously something that the kiwi's were not used too because it is not something you see in NZ, but everyone in who lived in Africa in those years, was relatively blaze about the amazing abilities of black people, especially women, to carry water and wood on their heads.

An international television network, has undertaken to broadcast the match against Transvaal as well as the last test at Ellis Park. These live television broadcasts would take place at the Ellis Park tennis stadium, which could house approximately 9.000 people and the two city theatres. Entry fees to these venues would be the same as tickets for the match. South Africa did not have television in 1970.

All Blacks 24 / Eastern Transvaal 3.

The first 10 minutes of this contest was like a full-scale war; Eastern Transvaal apparently took Danie Craven's remark that the provincial teams should soften up the AB seriously and the match started off as a near all-out brawl. David begins this narrative about this match with the following paragraph:

There was a stage in the opening phases of this match when some of us believed the game would be abandoned. Because the All Blacks refused to lose their heads the promised brawl did not eventuate but it was a near thing.

This supposedly weak provincial side took the words of South African Rugby Board president, Dr. Danie Craven, literally. He had wryly commented that he hoped the provincial sides would soften up the All Blacks so that South Africa might have a chance in the tests.

The Eastern Transvaal forwards went to the task like gladiators intent on the kill.

Alan Smith was knocked unconscious at one stage while Alan Sutherland's emerged from a ruck with a cracked nose; there were also several late tackles; blatant obstruction; barging and all sorts of other illegalities as ETVL proceeded to “soften up” the AB. It was also the game in which Colin Meads broke his arm. Gabriel David as well as Terry McLean refers extensively and in somewhat bias and not totally unemotional style to this incident. Here are some remarks from Gabriel David (Rugby and be damned):

That broken arm of Meads will doubtless become a legend in South Africa for it is an incredible fact that he played for 74 minutes with it.

He had not really wanted to. The injury occurred after 6 minutes, six minutes of the ugliest and roughest rugby seen on the tour to date. Meads rose from a ruck and was in obvious pain.

He carried on but 20 minutes later left to go to the sideline for medical advice.

He was told that he was sufficiently fit to play on. The arm was bandaged and Meads returned to play one of his most vigorous matches. 

X-ray plate of Colin Meads' broken arm.

In terms of it becoming a legend in South Africa; to be honest I wasn’t aware of the broken arm incident until reading this book 40 years later. The last sentence sounds almost like the infamous "and Churchill swam through the mighty Apies river".

Terry McLean titled the chapter in his book where he discusses the Eastern Transvaal match “The break that shook the world”. Yeah right, Collin Meads might have been a central figure in New Zealand and of All Black rugby but was definitely not such a central figure outside this tiny island that the incident would (or did as a matter of fact) shook up the rest of the world.

McLean is convinced that Meads’ arm was kicked deliberately and with intent to cause damage, while he was lying trapped on the ground. He was in obvious pain after the incident but kept on playing; at one stage he told Lochore he wants to leave the field. When, however, being told by the medical doctor on the sideline that it was merely a bruise he kept on playing not prepared to let his team down for such a trivial injury. 

Meads on the side line receiving the news that it was a mere bruise.

Independent from the emotional undertones in the narratives of the two kiwi journalist or whether he did play vigorously or was just trying to survive for the rest the game, it remains and extraordinary accomplishment by this remarkable rugby man. Playing for 74 minutes with a broken arm is not something that is high on my bucket list. Two minutes before halftime Milner broke clear and passed the ball for Meads in the open with an easy run to the goal line just for Meads to knock the ball; probably to be expected with a broken arm; the man is human after all.

Williams scored for New Zealand within the first 3 minutes and the AB went 5-0 up when McCormick converted. This spurred Eastern Transvaal into gladiator mood and the huge men from Springs climbed into the All Blacks like they were hooked on some sort of drug which turned them into fighting dervishes insensible to hurt. The red devils roared into battle and Alan Smith was knocked down, Going tore his ankle ligaments and Kirton was picked up and dropped. Referee Mr van der Vyver was extremely indulgent and it did appear, to the kiwi’s, that he was assisting the Eastern Transvaal quest when he disallowed a try by McCormick in the corner; Mr van der Vyver's view was obstructed and he refused the try on grounds of being unsighted.

McCormick had an aggressive game following some late tackling and played one of his better matches; even his place kicking were back on target for the first time on tour. Sutherland and Wylie had great games with Lochore a little subdued appearing to be still nursing his left hand which was recovering from the injury obtained in Perth.

Fregie McCormick got a little upset when Henderson the ETVL captain smashed him into the ground (see top picture) when he set-off on an attempted flashy run. McCormick didn't like it and started kicking and throwing punches while still on the ground and ended up with his jersey pulled over his head (see bottom picture)

Besides the dirty way they played David also had the following to say about Eastern Transvaal's performance against the AB.

Contrary to all the advice we had been offered that Eastern Transvaal was one of the weakest sides in the country, they proved a lively opposition-one of the liveliest of any met so far in this tour.

The tackling was tremendous and they managed to acquire more possession than any side to date. What's more they did something with it and kept their promise to run with the ball. 

Was this decision to run with the ball perhaps instrumental to Eastern Transvaal's spectacular upward curve during the early seventies? Two years later in 1972 they played in the Currie Cup final against Transvaal and if not for Gerald Bosch and his drop kicks they would have won that final. 

Andries Strydom and Kirton with Lochore in the background.

The All Blacks scored four tries (Williams, Sutherland, Wylie and Dick), while Eastern Transvaal’s only points came from a penalty by van den Berg the fullback. 

This picture shows Alan Sutherland scoring his try against Eastern Transvaal

After the game the AB's had 12 players injured and unable to play in the next two matches. Clearly, the travelling and 2 matches per week were starting to have an impact on players and it is probably the reason why long tours such as these are no longer standard practice. The AB's have so far played 7 matches in 4 weeks and travelled from Johannesburg via East Londen to Windhoek and back to Johannesburg. Most of the travelling was probably also done by bus.

The Johannesburg Star front paged a story who alleged that the All Blacks were undisputed fifteen-man punching champions using a form of fighting the Queensberry rules were designed to eliminate; they used their feet and kicked players lying on the ground. This story was of course not received with much enthusiasm in the All Black camp.

The Eastern Transvaal team for this match:

 All Blacks 34 / Transvaal 17

Transvaal was one of the big guns and have been one of the stronger provincial teams in SA during the 1970's and this was the first real quality opposition for the AB on tour; a match they were desperate to win. There was a test atmosphere in the AB camp in preparation for this all important match.

Prime Ministers Ian Smith of Rhodesia and John Vorster of South Africa attended the game at Ellis Park (of course the old Ellis Park). David wrote:

Ellis Park is a magnificent sight with 67.000 people squeezed together on the giant steel structures that are famous park temporary stands. 

The old Ellis Park.

There was astonishment in the press box when the non-playing members of the All Black side were ushered to some seats on the embankment near the southern touchline.

They were left there in the middle of the crowd. They were pelted with oranges during the game and suffered insults as their comrades on the field demolished Transvaal.

One wonders what was the reasoning behind these the actions of the TRU and what is it with the spectators at Ellis Park and nar'tjie (Nectarine or Mandarine) throwing? In 2001, I attended an S14 match between the Brumbies and the Cats at Ellis Park and was ashamed when the crowd began to pelt George Gregan and the rest of the Brumbies team with nar'tjies where they stood behind the poles after a Cats try.

The All Blacks kept a straight face after the match but struggled to not to say anything about the refereeing. Most journalists were very impressed with the AB manager, Ron Burk's answer to a question about the referee: "We were perfectly satisfied", he said.

Gabriel David, however, does not pull any punches in his book when it comes to the referee of the day:

Mr. Mike Odendaal blew his whistle today. He gave possibly one of the most incompetent displays I have ever had the misfortune to witness.

He was not biased -he was too inadequate for even that! No one is carping about the 17 penalties awarded against the All Blacks. Most of them were deserved. No one is disturbed that he penalized Transvaal only seven times.

We were staggered by the knock ons and forward passes that were overlooked.

Still, one cannot even be upset about this for a good many referees miss these basic Infringements. However, few would miss as many as did Mr. Odendaal this afternoon.

But this match almost became a farce in the second half when Syd Nomis was chasing the ball in the open and grabbed it only to throw it forward by almost three yards.

The All Blacks stopped and waited for the scrum. The Transvaal centre Ron Grace must have known a thing or two about the referee for he pounced on the ball in the All Black goal area. Astonishingly, Mr. Odendaal awarded a try!

He used three more such long paragraphs to let-off steam about the ref, in the book, and also makes special mention of an incident where the referee under pressure from Dawie de Villiers, and a few other Transvaal players changed a decision and awarded a penalty against NZ. This occurred at a time when Transvaal was busy coming back into the game.

The following article appeared in the New Zealand Dominion post after the match indicating great satisfaction with the performance of the All Black team (especially with the forwards) but concern about the referee. It was incidents like this that re-afirmed the conviction new Zealanders had and still harbour that South African referees cheeted them in 1949 and 1960.  

Transvaal in the person of Dawie de Villiers (who slipped through a gap after a chip kick) was the first South African team who scored a try against the 1970 All Blacks (see picture below).

Transvaal eventually scored two tries but the second one was quite controversial as was mentioned earlier with Nomis throwing the ball forward. 

The picture above show Bobby Grace going over for his try (top picture) but as can be seen in the bottom picture Bryan Williams and McCormick were pointing to the place where Nomis lost the ball forward and expressing their disagreement with the decision.

Bryan Williams was excellent, but the player of the day was the All Black Ian Kirkpatrick who completely overshadowed the much acclaimed Piet Greyling.   

Piet Greyling in his Transvaal jersey

Quite a few incumbant and future Springboks as well as future and/or previous junior Springboks played for Transvaal in this match. Sakkie de Klerk played lock for Transvaal. The other lock was Piet Botha also a Springbok who toured with the Springboks to New Zealand in 1965 and who was brought back into the TVL team for this match. Piet Cronje a future Springbok centre played in the midfield for Transvaal.

The Transvaal team can be seen below: 

Piet Cronje, Syd Nomis, Dawie de Villiers, Piet Botha, Sakkie de Klerk, Piet Greyling and Robbie Barnard all played for the Springboks; some of them like Cronje and Barnard were not Springboks yet but eventually did play for South Africa. Hugh Bladen was a jounior Springbok. 

Hugh Bladen who played flyhalf for Transvaal in this match. Terry McLean writes the following about Hugh Bladen: Transvaal’s special weakness was at Bladen, hitherto accounted a flyhalf of high talent, and this was a pity because Cronje moved his feet very nippily and Grace was smart, too. 

Piet Cronje on the break for Transvaal. 

Sakkie de Klerk in his Springbok blazer. He played in three test matches for the Springboks on the 69/70 end year tour to the UK.    

Ian Kirkpatrick who, according to David completely outplayed both Jan Ellis and Piet Greyling on the two separate occasions he played against the two incumbent Springbok flankers shown here on bullocking run in the second test.

Terry McLean writes as follows on Kirkpatrick’s performance in this match: Some thought “Kirkie” the greatest player on the day because his violent runs established him so masterfully superior to Greyling – there were many second thoughts, few of them so complimentary to Kirkpatrick, later on tour.

The All Blacks as a team was very satisfied with their overall performance. David writes:

Refereeing apart, it was a magnificent win for the All Blacks, brilliantly conceived and executed authoritatively. Transvaal had the All Blacks under tremendous pressure for the first few minutes and the tourists were bustled.

Then, in the fifth minute a dramatic change came when Kirkpatrick burst clear, handed on to Williams who scooted down the sideline. He in-passed to Lochore who gave it to Wylie, Muller and Laidlaw joined in the surge and a long pass to Dick was gathered on the bounce and the winger was over in the corner. It started the All Blacks scoring spree.

The victory was complete and comprehensive. Ivan Vodanovich's (the coach) eyes had a lively twinkle.... 

This picture shows Sam Strahan ranking high in the line-out with Bruce McLeod, Allister Hopkinson, Alan Smith (obscured), Ian Kirkpatrick and Brain Lochore the other All Blacks in the picture. The TVL No2 is Robbie Barnard.

For the All Blacks Dick, Laidlaw, Williams, McCormick and Strahan scored tries with McCormick converting all 5 and adding another three penalties. Transvaals points came from tries by de Villiers and Grace with one conversion and three penalties by van Deventer. 

This picture shows Malcom Dick getting tackled by Pietie Burgers. In the background from left to right is Piet Botha, Chris Laidlaw, Piet Cronje, Brain Lochore, Bobby Grace (obscured) Dawie de Villiers and Simon Norwood.

All Blacks 21 / Western Transvaal 17.

The Afrikaans newspapers came out with a piece after the Transvaal match indicating that the All Blacks are masters of obstruction and that referees are allowing them to get away with it. David is obviously very close to vomiting bile, in his book, about this argument but it is something that we are still complaining about today.

There was issues with the Postmaster in Potchefstroom, who refused to open the post office over the long weekend with the result that the kiwi-media reports could not be forwarded to the destined newspapers in New Zealand. The issue was resolved to some satisfaction when it was decided to set-up temporary facilities at Oliënpark.

Western Transvaal, coached by national selector and former springbok skipper Johan Claassen had a theory on how to play the All Blacks. This theory was met with quite a substantial amount of ridicule by the visiting kiwi sport journalist on tour.

Western Transvaal, however, put up a more than decent performance –dominating in the scrums line-outs and breakdowns- and with a brilliant Dirk de Vos on 9 –who kept the ball in front of his pack- they gave the All Blacks quite a fright and nearly won the match.

Western Transvaal took the All Blacks on in the lineouts and mauls and kept the ball in front of the forwards with little box kicks. This startegy worked to the extend that they allmost won the match. A strategy no doubt based on what Claassen learned on the 1956 tour against the All Blacks.This picture show Dirk de Vos in process of landing one of his superb little punts.

The former South African wrestling champion Daan Ackermann shown in this picture was outstanding on lock to such an extent that he was invited to the final Springbok trials the following weekend. 

The following is what David wrote about the contest:

.... the little-fancied Western Transvaal side this afternoon was the toughest game of the tour so far. Superbly coached by the national selector Mr. Johan Claassen, Western Transvaal played some magnificent rugby and actually took the All Blacks on at their own game - driving in the forwards and putting the ball behind the tourists with skilful tactical kicking.

Western Transvaal played some inspired rugby at times with the springbok halfback, Dirk de Vos, in brilliant kicking mood as he placed the ball in the exact position he wanted. 

Dirk de Vos made a good impression on the touring All Blacks. Not only did he play an outstanding game, but in his post match speech he indicated that in his opinion the All Blacks were hard but fair rugby players and that he did not for one moment believe current stories that they are a punch happy bunch using illegal tactics (such as obstruction).

Western Transvaal scored two tries and kicked two drop goals while the All Blacks scored 5 tries (Davis x 2, Urlich, Williams, Dick) of which McCormick converted 3.

Bryan Williams scored a brilliant individualistic try and received a standing ovation from the crowd as he trotted back to the half line.

This picture shows Kalla Coetzer in process of slipping out of a Bryan Williams tackle to go and score WTVL's first try.

Valla Smith intercepted the ball in the All Blacks 25 and ran through to score behind the uprights. 

Some more action from the Western Transvaal match

The Western Transvaal team for this match were:

K Bakkes; K Coetzer; F Cato; I Schaap; K Botha; V Smith; D de Vos (Captain); L Nel; A Bates; W Claassen; D Ackermann; O Steyn; B Rautenbach; L Loubser; B Lowe. A Dyson replaced Cato during the match. 

Dirk de Vos and Albie Bates both played in this game against the AB's. They moved to NTvl the following year and played in the Currie Cup final that NTvl won in 1973. Here they are with the CC in 1973. Bates was the captain and De Vos the man of the match and essentially won the match for NTvl that day with a brilliant individualistic performance, including a few drop kicks.

Click here to se a short clip of Dirk de Vos doing one of his chip kicks.